What is the good life?
Originally published by the Santa Barbara News-Press on April 12, 2020.
Recently I found this poem on my Facebook site. It is said to have been written in 1869 and reprinted during the 1919 pandemic.
And people stayed at home
And read books
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
Someone meditates, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.
I emailed it to friends. One added another line to the poem: "And then came the roaring 20s and the stock market crash!"
That comment stopped me in my tracks. The poem supposedly came after the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919. Are we headed down that path again? Are we going back to "the good life" —consumption and consuming— followed by another financial collapse?
What is the good life? This poem seems to be the answer to my question. "They made new choices...and created new ways of living." Just like right here in Santa Barbara with "Zoomers and Boomer." Daniel Goldberg enrolled teenagers to shop for and deliver groceries to seniors isolated at home. Now cities are contacting him asking how they can join.
I think solutions are within all of us. The creative solutions that people are coming up with during the pandemic are a beacon for the future. We need to work out ways to do things better and more in harmony with our real needs while healing our Earth for future generations. A good reminder was in the April 8, Santa Barbara News-Press Thought for Today: "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."— Sitting Bull.
Another thing we are learning is that perhaps our economy can work better if we don't try to find happiness in "bigger and better" consumption. We are forced to live simply now. Why can't we continue to do that in the future, so that no American will be hungry and without a place to live.
I'm wondering what ideas other people in Santa Barbara have —big or little. Send them to the paper. Let's redefine what we mean by "Live the Good Life."
President of the Santa Barbara & Tri-Counties United Nations Association, USA